Innovation and creativity to inspire OMD transition

The agency recently threw open its doors to leaders in tech and media as it begins to redefine its offer, Ed Owen reports.

Naughton (l) and Clays: Google’s UK managing director joined the OMD boss for a Q&A session
Naughton (l) and Clays: Google’s UK managing director joined the OMD boss for a Q&A session

The reinvention of OMD UK continues. The managing director, Dan Clays, has been open about his mission to instil change, symbolised by the Future of Britain project that the agency began last year.

Last week, OMD held an "Innovation Week", bringing in media leaders and creative thinkers to help inspire the agency and its clients.

Clays explained: "We are in the business of growing our clients’ businesses, and innovation and creativity is the route to doing it."

The week got under way with demonstrations and a talk by the virtual-reality company Inition and the music-streaming service Spotify, as well as a Q&A session between Clays and the recently appointed UK managing director of Google, Eileen Naughton.

The Inition creative director, Andy Millns, talked about the latest in virtual reality, now big news thanks to Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift in July. He said the interest in virtual reality had accelerated because the cost of the components needed to make systems work has collapsed in a matter of years.

"The screens are the same screens used in smartphones, and the sensors used to determine position are the same as in a smartphone too. These sensors used to cost £1,000 but now cost a couple of pounds," Millns explained. "Virtual reality has arrived and Oculus Rift is just one player. Google Cardboard allows anyone to make a headset using a phone as the screen for just over a tenner."

Spotify’s director of economics, Will Page, described the progress of the song Waves by the Dutch rapper Mr Probz from a Euro hit to cracking the US. Spotify introduced the song to the US by including it on playlists curated in Europe long before there was any radio play. The point Page makes is that Spotify has the power to break songs – the BBC now curates its playlist on Spotify, helping deliver a younger audience to Radio 1, for example.

Of course, Page’s presentation came in the same week as Taylor Swift decided to pull her music from Spotify, but it’s clear that, despite not making a profit, the company has fundamentally changed the way people listen to music again – culminating in recognition in the official singles chart.

Naughton expressed her excitement about the British media and tech "scene". She said: "It’s a very special market – 43 per cent of adspend is digital, which is the highest of any major market. From Google’s point of view, the UK has the best monetisation for search per capita. The UK is advanced and dense, with the highest percentage of GDP spent on ads compared with any other large market."

When asked what anyone looking to digital should be thinking about, her answer was emphatic. "One is mobile, two is video. The cost of a data plan here is the most efficient of any large market," she said. "Under-24s have 94 per cent smartphone penetration. There is a huge transition from desktop to mobile."

For Clays, the transition continues. He revealed OMD would be "examining itself at an all-company meeting next month", with a view to better- aligning the agency internally for the modern media landscape. Both creativity and innovation are set to feature strongly in the restructure.


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